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After all, it's the Internet, right?

CNET News.com's Charles Cooper, who spent vacation time perusing posts about Jewish cabals and minority scams, found little holiday spirit within.

So what did I do over my winter vacation? Well, if you must know, I learned the following by poring over Internet bulletin boards: • A Jewish cabal secretly manipulates the world and is responsible for the last 100 years' worth of wars.

• Minorities--pick the shade of your choosing--are lazy, stupid, and otherwise entirely useless.

• Rat liberals are simply fink traitors in drag.

Thugs and dimwits pop up everywhere in society, and it's no surprise to find them polluting the Internet. But either they've found a better way to draw attention, or they're multiplying in numbers. I fear that it may be the latter, though admittedly, it's only my impression.

Still, when I bounced some of the quotes I found off friends, they were mildly amused that I thought this was worthy of note. "C'mon, what did I expect? After all, it's the Internet."

Yes, it is the Internet--and how depressing to realize that we've become numb and accepting--even though nowadays, you should first don flak jacket and helmet before wading into most online forums.

I came across the above-quoted pearls of wisdom on Yahoo Finance, a site that has become a watering hole for cyberbullies and nitwits--who usually turn out to be one and the same--to vent their spleen.

I'm not sure how to explain motivation. Maybe it's the subject matter. When money's involved, people easily lose their cool.

Anyway, the lack of civility is not limited to Yahoo Finance. If you use the Internet regularly, the odds are high that you'll encounter unpleasant points of view. The libertarians among you will protest how this is preferable to any bogus alternative, where Big Brother rigs what you can read and free speech exists in name only.

I suppose that's true. To be fair, anyone who watches too much television or spends too much time at the corner bar is bound to encounter disagreeable blowhards who display appalling ignorance. That's true in spades about the Internet.

Still, I remember a time when Yahoo Finance was a useful tool. Anyone interested in learning about business and stocks could browse the site and pick up valuable pointers. When the Internet craze began in the late 1990s, I benefited enormously from reading posts about the dozens of new companies popping up across Silicon Valley.

Former San Jose Mercury News computer columnist Dan Gillmor was earlier than most of his peers to acknowledge the superior collective wisdom of his audience. And so it was that informed investors eager to trade ideas and challenge convention helped the Yahoo Finance community attain a certain collective wisdom.

That's ancient history.

On the Alcoa boards, one latter-day solon regularly baits liberals by questioning their patriotism, let alone their loyalty to this country. In this, he succeeds with nearly each post. Over at the Goldman Sachs forum, the goose-stepping acolytes of the Third Reich are on parade every day. And that's just for starters. (Sorry, but I'm not going to give these clowns any extra recognition by naming names or providing URL links.)

It would be too cynical to attribute Yahoo's corporate indifference to the fact that, well, page views are page views. Besides, as a card-carrying member of the Fourth Estate, who am I to tut-tut about others when everyone understands that controversy turns pages?

Yahoo and Google, and any other service, can hide behind the fact that their boards are too big to individually monitor and allocate personnel to manually investigate each complaint. That puts the onus on the rest of us to behave like mensches, as we're left to our own devices.

For better--or in this case, increasingly--for worse.